Zidane: Bale one of world's best
Sat, 25 May 2013 08:28:00
Midfielder Craig Bryson has pledged his future to Derby County after agreeing terms on a new three-year contract.
The 26-year-old, who was due to be out of contract at the end of next season, has extended his stay at Pride Park to the summer of 2016 and will sign the deal when he gets back from holiday.
Bryson has established himself as a regular in the Derby midfield since arriving from Kilmarnock in the summer of 2011, scoring 11 goals in 85 appearances, and he is delighted his future has been sorted out.
"I want to be part of what the club is trying to achieve, so it's great we've got something sorted and I've made it clear for a while that I've settled into the area and wanted to stay," Bryson said.
"I've really enjoyed the last two seasons and I think with the progress we've made in that time, especially in the last 12 months, we can kick on and make a real challenge towards the top six next season.
"We've got a strong team in place already with an excellent spirit and the manager has made no secret of the fact he wants to add to it over the summer to see if we can have an even better season next year, which is quite exciting."
Manager Nigel Clough said: "Craig is a key player for us so it was always high on our wish list to get something agreed with him.
"There aren't too many players like him around so this is an important piece of news for us that he wants to remain at Derby County for the next three years.
"People always comment on his work-rate, but that does him a disservice in many ways because he is an extremely good player with a lot of quality. His goals from midfield have been vital for us throughout the course of the last two seasons as well."
Lampard was recently handed a new one-year deal at Stamford Bridge after a season which saw him overtake Bobby Tambling as the club's record goalscorer.
The future of club captain John Terry, two years Lampard's junior at 32, has also been the subject of discussion after he struggled with injuries last season and was not a firm fixture in interim boss Rafael Benitez's defence even when fit.
But Lampard told The Sun: "I know JT will want to stay, he's said he'd love to stay at Chelsea. He feels the same as me.
"Why play anywhere else when you love the club you're at? JT's the captain of the club and does a brilliant job.
"At the start of next season, I think that's when the club will take a view on it. I know what my view would be."
Both players are veterans of three Premier League titles, Champions League and Europa League wins and multiple FA Cups and League Cups with the club and Lampard believes having an established spine to the team has been vital to the club's success.
However, he laughs off the suggestion that the senior players in the dressing room are able to influence owner Roman Abramovich's hiring and firing of managers.
"One thing that has helped us remain successful over such a long period is a strong core, strong spine," he said. "I mean that in terms of players - their ability, personality and the leaders.
"You need people like that in the dressing room. But the idea of the dressing room being too strong? Certainly not.
"I've never heard of any players here being able to ask our owner to sack a manager or even discuss anything to do with the structure of the club. If you wanted to take that chance you would probably get sacked yourself."
Robben was cast in the role of villain 12 months ago when he missed the extra-time spot-kick that cost his side victory on home soil against Chelsea.
With a disappointing Euro 2012 campaign to follow and then an early season injury, it seemed the Dutchman's influence was fading.
But Robben has slowly returned to form, contributing two of Bayern's seven goals in their semi-final mauling of Barcelona and being an integral figure in their pursuit of the Treble.
And ahead of the all-German showdown with Borussia Dortmund at Wembley, Heynckes said: "It is not a surprise.
"Arjen was very motivated after the European Championships last summer. But he got injured and lost time.
"He is still driven by ambition. He has a professional approach and is in good form.
"He is a very important player in my system because he has learned to take on defensive roles. That makes him a lot stronger than he has been in the past."
Heynckes reported a fully fit 21-man squad, which will allow Bayern to start favourites to lift their first European crown since 2001.
With the Bundesliga title already confirmed and a DFB-Pokal final against Stuttgart to follow next week, Heynckes final season as a manager is threatening to leave new boss Pep Guardiola with a difficult act to follow.
The 68-year-old accepts his team are something special.
"We have achieved some extraordinary things," he said
"Overall, our season has been the best in the Bundesliga from any team in 50 years.
"But we have the aspiration to carry on. We want to maintain our form tomorrow and in the German Cup final.
"I am fortunate. I have won the Champions League before when I was at Real Madrid. For the players in our squad who are 28 and over, tomorrow could be the crowning moment of their entire careers."
Although Bayern have not beaten Borussia Dortmund in six meetings since February 2010, they start overwhelming favourites given the manner in which they have transferred their imperious domestic form on to the European stage.
Thomas Muller acknowledges the side Bayern wrested the Bundesliga title from have plenty of quality, despite the absence of Bayern-bound Mario Gotze.
However, he is adamant his side are the stronger.
"Borussia are a complete team," Muller said. "That is harder to deal with than a group of individual players, even though their individuals are also very good.
"But I don't have believe we have any weaknesses. We have played a lot of games, scored a great deal of goals and not conceded many.
"I have a really good feeling about Saturday."
After Shinji Kagawa's exit for Manchester United last summer, Mario Gotze's departure for Bayern, Dortmund's opponents at Wembley, has already been confirmed.
Gotze, who misses the game due to a hamstring injury, looks certain to be followed to the Allianz Arena by Dortmund's star striker, Robert Lewandowski, underlining the extra financial muscle Bayern boast.
But whilst he expects Bayern will continue to be strong following three final appearances in four seasons, Hummels insists his club is the place to be over the next few years.
And he wants to prove it.
"They are not going to get any worse are they?" said Hummels, who has shrugged off a foot injury.
"Not if they keep taking our players.
"We need to show those who would like to go to Munich that they will be missing out on something."
There is a reason Dortmund will not break the bank to keep hold of their best players.
In 2005, just eight years after their only Champions League success, they almost went bust.
And Jurgen Klopp knows such a near-catastrophe will not be allowed to happen again.
"The club could have ended as a fiasco," he said. "The stadium might have been turned into a monument.
"Instead, it has risen from the ashes.
"Football is a religion in Dortmund. Bayern may have won a lot of fans and a lot of trophies because of the incredible number of good decisions they have made. But now there is another story. Along has come another club that is pretty good as well.
"We do have money to get good players. But there are other clubs who can spend more money.
"We have to take a different position."
Such is the impact Klopp has made following back-to-back titles and a surge to the Champions League final that saw them emerge unbeaten from four encounters with Real Madrid and prove themselves superior to Manchester City he could become a target for Europe's elite as well.
For now though, he is wrapped up in the Dortmund dream.
"What we have grown in the last five years has been amazing," he said, recalling his arrival from Mainz after Dortmund's worst league campaign in two decades.
"It could only have been done at this club.
"That is why things are so emotional for us, compared to other places where success is normal."
Hibs go into the game not having won the trophy in 111 years and on the back of a demoralising 5-1 thrashing by Edinburgh rivals Hearts in last season's final.
The Parkhead side, for their part, are odds-on to win the trophy which would secure the domestic double but Lennon said: "The pressure is on both teams, it is a cup final and there is a trophy to play for.
"I suppose we will be heavy favourites going into the game but it is all on the day as we have seen in the past.
"We have had a terrific season and it would be a nice way to finish it off.
"I think there will be a full house and a tremendous atmosphere.
"What the players can't do is get carried away with the crowd, they have to concentrate on the game and blank the crowd out."
Lennon was "delighted" to discover this week that he is free to take his place in the dugout tomorrow.
He was found guilty by a Scottish Football Association disciplinary tribunal of entering the "playing zone" within 15 minutes of the final whistle of Celtic's 3-1 SPL defeat by Motherwell last month while serving a three-match touchline ban.
Lennon's ban for breaking the SFA's rule 205, however, has been suspended until the end of next season and he will be on the touchline urging his players on.
"It is very important and I am just looking forward to it now," he said. "I played in plenty of cup finals so to take the team out for another one is pretty special.
"I missed a cup final a couple of years ago and it feels there is a part of you missing. "You are not able to do your job properly, you can't affect the players as much as you want to.
"These opportunities don't come round very often, so to lead the team out on Sunday will mean a lot to me."
Mourinho is expected to take charge at Stamford Bridge for a second time this summer after it was confirmed he is to leave Real Madrid at the end of the Spanish season.
The Portuguese coach won two Premier League titles, an FA Cup and two League Cups during his first spell at the club from 2004-07.
Cech, who arrived in the same summer as Mourinho nine years ago, said: "He is a great manager and I think everyone remembers how successful we were with him as a manager.
"If he could reproduce that it would be fantastic."
Yet despite looking forward with optimism, Cech is thankful for the good work Benitez has done.
The Spaniard takes charge of the Blues for the final time as they face Manchester City in the second of two lucrative post-season friendlies at Yankee Stadium in New York this weekend.
Benitez has overcome huge fan hostility since succeeding Roberto di Matteo to leave on a high after winning the Europa League and securing third in the Premier League.
Cech, 31, said: "I think he has done a very good job, obviously, having won the Europa League and qualified for the Champions League.
"I think this was the aim, and to try to do as best as we could.
"He worked hard from day one and tried to do the best for the club.
"In the end he is leaving with a European trophy, which is great for him."
Luiz, who has excelled at times under Benitez, also paid tribute to the Spaniard, whose past associations with Liverpool made him a reviled figure among supporters on arrival.
The Brazil international said: "He has done a great job at Chelsea.
"He has had a lot of pressure. He has shown character and that he is a professional.
"I am so happy we won a title and qualified directly for the Champions League."
Luiz added that he was excited about the prospect of being managed by Mourinho, who has also won the Champions League with Porto and Inter Milan.
Luiz said: "Everyone says positive things about him and everyone knows about his qualities.
"He has done a great job in many clubs in the world, like Chelsea.
"We would be excited to work with an experienced coach like that."
Having missed out on Champions League qualification, Tottenham face an anxious summer as they wait to discover whether Bale will sign a new contract with them or move on to one of Europe's top clubs.
And Zidane's comments are sure to add to fears over a bid from the Bernabeu.
The Real ambassador hailed Bale's consistency and ranked the Welshman in the same bracket as Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona's Lionel Messi.
Zidane told reporters: "I've been watching Tottenham because Gareth Bale has been playing there.
"Aside from Ronaldo and Messi, he is the player who has impressed me the most in the world. He is outstanding.
"What has particularly impressed me is that he is consistent. It's not just been in one or two matches.
"He is consistently scoring spectacular goals and very important goals. He is very quick, skilful and exciting.
"Of course all the talented players like that can come to Real Madrid. Is he good enough for Real Madrid? Of course. He is more than good enough to play for Real Madrid."